Regardless of lack of inexperience, the John Carroll University wrestling team battled to a third place finish at the OAC wrestling championships this weekend.
Entering the tournament, only junior Adam Pizzurro and senior Ryan Summers had ever wrestled their way to a conference final. By the end of their tournament JCU had three more wrestlers that had made championship match appearances.
Both Pizzurro and Summers prevailed with championships in their respective weight classes. It was Pizzurro’s first OAC title at the 133 lb. weight-class and Summers’ second at 184.
Pizzurro took advantage of his quarterfinal bye before facing Mount Union freshman Ed Petroskey. The added rest helped Pizzurro to beat Petroskey and then earn a victory over Baldwin-Wallace senior Jared Selover in the final. Pizzurro would need overtime to beat Selover as he won the bout with a takedown in the first period of the overtime.
Summers, who has been invincible against OAC opponents for his entire career, did not relinquish a point in capturing the 184 pound title. After pinning his opening round opponent and routing his second round foe Summers then downed Heidelberg freshman Kyle Rooney, the second seed, to take the title.
With victories in their respective weight classes, Pizzurro and Summers have been granted bids to the NCAA National Championships on March 2 and 3 in Dubuque, Iowa. Both should prove to be difficult opponents to the other wrestlers from around the nation.
“I want to go out and battle,” Pizzurro said of the National Tournament, “I plan on wrestling every match like I have nothing to lose.”
However, Pizzurro and Summers were not the only JCU wrestlers to experience success at the tournament.
Three JCU wrestlers finished second in their weight classes. Sophomores Elie Naoum (125 pounds) and Dan Mizener (157 pounds) both fell to the top seed in their bid for an OAC title. Junior Dominic Spitalieri placed second in the 141 pound weight class.
Rounding out the place winners for JCU were seniors Chris Branchen and Steve Bagnowski, both placing third. Bagnowski would drop his first match of the tournament before winning three straight matches to take third place at 165 pounds.
Perhaps the most surprising finish was Branchen in the 174-pound weight class. Entering the tournament, Branchen was ranked eighth nationally and was a favorite to be a national qualifier.
However, after Branchen’s semifinal match upset the Blue Streaks lost their bid for a third wrestler to gain a national title bid. The numerous top three finishers pushed JCU to a third place finish overall with 69 points overall. The 69 points fell just short of Baldwin-Wallace in second place with 73.5 team points.
“The OAC was a tough league this year,” Pizzurro said, “I was proud of how we wrestled, everyone went out and battled.”
The third place finish is exceptionally better than last years result, a tie for last place. Last year’s young, injury plagued squad battled but did not have the experience that was needed to place high in the ultra competitive OAC. However, experience was something this year’s squad had.
“We didn’t wrestle like a young team,” Pizzurro commented, “the younger guys wrestled like veterans not second year wrestlers and that showed.”
When the OAC championships roll around next year JCU will be more seasoned than the were this year.
With one returning OAC champion, three OAC runners up, and two more wrestlers with quality OAC championship experience JCU will be capable of making waves at next season’s championships.